GET BREAKING NEWS IN YOUR BROWSER. CLICK HERE TO TURN ON NOTIFICATIONS.

X

PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

Boulder County commissioners on Thursday afternoon may formally approve a county department’s proposal to withdraw its application to create a composting facility on about 40 acres at the former Rainbow Nursery tree farm, 5762 N. 107th St., south of Longmont.

The commissioners’ staff announced Monday that the Public Works Department will recommend at a 1 p.m. Thursday meeting that its application for the proposed facility — a project that has prompted at least two lawsuits filed by neighboring property owners objecting to its development on the current county open space property — be withdrawn “in order to allow staff and the commissioners to assess new information and allow for more public dialogue about a compost facility in Boulder County.”

If the commissioners’ agreement to the withdrawal of the October 2020 application, that would allow Boulder County officials “to continue to gather and analyze new information, such as engineering and financing” before deciding whether and when to revive the proposal, according to an advisory the county issued Monday.

County officials already have been emphasizing for weeks that the proposed facility has been “on hold” since some point late last fall or earlier this winter.

In December, Lisa Battan, Brandon White and Victor Vargas, who own property next to or near the property filed a Boulder County District Court lawsuit against the county about the proposed compost facility.

The plaintiffs alleged that a conservation easement the county bought to limit future development on the North 107th Street property did not go out of existence when the county bought full ownership of the onetime Rainbow Nursery and its water rights in 2018.

An amendment to that lawsuit the plaintiffs then filed in January alleges that Boulder County violated the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) in its planned use of open space tax dollars to buy a property if it is converted to a compost facility, asking the court to refund the money used.

In February, attorneys for Boulder County filed a request that the Boulder district court dismiss that lawsuit, claiming the lawsuit is “not ripe for consideration” and lacks legal standing.

“Landowners suffered no injury in fact because their injuries are premised on an event that has not occurred,” according to the county’s response. “Further, landowners do not have a legally protected interest in a conservation easement that they do not own. Finally, TABOR does not create a legally protected interest in how tax revenues received through a legal, voter-approved tax measure are subsequently spent.”

Later in February, two other Boulder County residents — Jeffrey and Nancy Davis, who live on and own a horse training and boarding facility, Reverie Farms, which is adjacent to the county’s former Rainbow Nursery property — sued the Board of County Commissioners to stop the proposed compost facility from being built. They asked the Boulder District Court to declare the conservation easement is still in effect on the former Rainbow Nursery property.

Several Boulder County officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Davis’ lawsuit but Commissioner Marta Loachamin wrote in a Feb. 23 text message that it is a quasi-judicial matter — referring to the a special-review use application for the property that the board could eventually be asked to vote on — and that the board is unable to discuss it beforehand.

However, formal withdrawal of the application would free commissioners to discuss the proposal or its alternatives in public.

Erie’s Town Board of Trustees has weighed in against the current proposal on Feb. 18, telling Boulder County commissioners that “we are writing to you to share our residents’ concerns and our frustration with how Boulder County has handled consideration of the proposed compost facility at the former Rainbow Nursery.”

Erie’s Town Board, whose letter to the commissioners followed a Feb. 9 Erie town board meeting that gave residents an opportunity to comment about the proposal, asked Boulder County commissioners “to formally withdraw the compost facility proposal and to meet with us to review the process through which any similar proposal should be considered.”

Longmont’s City Council has tentatively scheduled a resolution to be considered during a meeting later in this month which, if adopted, would endorse the concept of a compost facility but would not include Longmont’s specific backing for a specific location for that facility.

On Saturday morning, during Longmont’s monthly “Coffee with Council” opportunity for people to visit informally with Council members about any issues, several callers told Mayor Brian Bagley and Councilman Tim Waters about their opposition to the compost facility.

Waters said during Saturday’s meeting that while he understood the facility’s opponents’ concerns, the Longmont Council was also likely to hear from supporters of such a facility. Bagley said that while Longmont’s Council might pass its reactions to the idea along to Boulder County officials, the decision about whether to proceed with such a composting project in unincorporated Boulder County would ultimately be up to the county.

The environmental-issues activist organization Sustainable Resilient Longmont told its supporters in a Feb. 13 “Action Alert” that “we need to add community voices to contact the three Boulder County Commissioners ASAP to tell them you support this project.”